CAP drops political ads from the regulations

The advertising industry’s watchdog The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has refused to regulate political ads any longer, following a series of rows about negative campaigning.

The CAP formulates guidelines for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the body which judges complaints about print and poster ads. But the CAP has withdrawn regulations on political ads from its new code launched this week.

The move means non-broadcast political advertising is left without a code of practice, and is governed solely by criminal law and the laws of libel.

The CAP’s decision comes after the main political parties failed to agree on a new formula for monitoring their ads.

The CAP has been threatening to stop policing political ads since the 1997 election, which saw a spate of negative campaigning, including the Conservatives’ infamous “demon eyes” poster.

The ASA found itself powerless to deal with many complaints because political advertising has traditionally been exempt from CAP provisions on honesty, fairness and negative comparisons. The theory was that voters could make up their own minds.

CAP chairman Andrew Brown says: “The ASA could uphold complaints against the Conservatives’ ‘demon eyes’ poster, because it portrayed a person in an offensive way, which was covered by the guidelines.

“But other ads, which would normally have been out of bounds for a commercial organisation, such as ‘Same old Tories, same old lies’, could not be regulated.

“The situation was messy and unsatisfactory, it was part in and part out. The confusion was in danger of bringing the advertising industry into disrepute.”

The Home Office is believed to be looking into setting up a new body to regulate political advertising, and the CAP has offered to help it draught a set of guidelines.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here